In the past, the options for evaluation infants and children with suspected heart disease at hospitals with no on site pediatric cardiologist were limited. And, because of the infrequent occurrence of heart problems in infants and children compared to adults, the services of a pediatric cardiologist may be desired at many different locations but not with enough frequency to warrant the presence of a full-time pediatric cardiologist.
Through the telemedicine remote presence mechanism children with suspected congenital heart disease can now be evaluated in their home community using echocardiography (ultrasound of the heart). This non-invasive technique provides accurate diagnostic information about the structure and function of a child’s heart and has become the primary tool in the evaluation of these patients.
Echocardiograms can be viewed in real time as they are performed by the technician at the patient’s local hospital. This allows timely diagnosis with medical management, if required, to be initiated without delay in patients who are found to have significant heart disease. If necessary for additional treatment, transport can be arranged to Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children. This also avoids the unnecessary transport of children who are ultimately found to have a normal cardiac evaluation.
This program also allows immediate communication of results and consultation with the referring primary care physician or neonatologist, as well as discussion with the patient’s family. It also allows a higher level of supervision and education of the technologists performing the study, who in many cases are primarily “adult” cardiac sonographers with limited experience in the evaluation of children. Over time, this can significantly increase the quality of the echocardiographic studies in local community hospitals and provide an improved level of care at the local level.